<wayyiqtol> again

Galia Hatav ghatav at aall.ufl.edu
Mon Dec 27 11:43:35 EST 1999

Dear Professor Nicacci,

I am familiar with your theory as I read your book carefully, and I am glad
I have the chance to converse with you. (I want to thank Brian Rocine

	First let me comment on your claim that <wayyiqtol> is the past
tense in the historical narrative.  From your analysis of Gen 1:5 you
should conclude that <qatal> also is past tense.  So even if one accepts
that the forms encode tenses, that would not help in distinguishing between
them. I understand that you see <wayyiqtol> as past tense only in the
narrative material. But categories do not change their nature from one text
to the other. Their properties, which always exist, may be used differently
from one genre to the other, but they do not change.  When we translate the
verses into English (or any other language which has tenses - past,
present, future) we have to use tenses, as it is obligatory in Englsih. The
question is how do we know what tense to use.  Following your analysis it
is not a problem in the case of <wayyiqtol>, since you see it as the past
tense, but what do you do with <qatal>, <yiqtol>, <wqatal> and <qotel>?  It
seems to me that you are doing what we all do, namely using the context.
But aren't you doing the same with <wayyiqtol>?  You may want to say that
you are not, since there are no cases where <wayyiqtol> is understood as
present or future, while the other forms have different tense
interpretations in different enviroments (within the narrative material).
So, do you want to conclude that only <wayyiqtol> encodes tense, while the
other forms do not? This would be an unwarranted conclusion, theoretically
speaking.  My contention is that NONE of the forms encodes tense, but while
all the forms would be interprted according to the context concerning tense
(when translated into English), <wayyiqtol> is always understood as
depicting events in the past. The question is why.  In my book I show it to
be derived by elimination.  As I see <wayyiqtol> to be non-modal and the
future to be modal, <wayyiqtol> cannot be used to depict future events. It
cannot be understood to refer to present situations either, but this
because of its sequential nature. One cannot get a sequence in present,
unless it is habitual, as shown in the following contrasting examples:

	1. Mary is eating and reading the paper.
	2. (Every morning) Mary gets up, takes a shower and goes to work.

The clauses in (1) report two simultaneous activities at the present
moment. We do not understand them to be in sequence. If we switch from the
progressive in (1) to the simple present in (2) we do get a sequence, but
habitual. I show (in chapter 4 in my book) that habituals are modal, so (2)
is modal, and therefore it cannot be depicted in BH by <wayyiqtol>. So we
are left with the past, and that is why <wayyiqtol> is always interpreted
as referring to the past.  The question arises now is why this is not the
case in the prophetic material. I did not do any work on prophecy, but I
started to think about the problem. In my last post to the list I suggested
to call <wayyiqtol> an R-building form. What I want to check now is whether
it appears in prophetic verses not only to report future events but also
other modals. If my guess is correct, we will NOT find it in other kinds of
modals, but only in future. As shown in the literature and summarized in
chapter (4) in my book, the future is modal because of its open nature. In
the case of the word of God transferred by His propehts one might assume
that the future is NOT open (or at least that this is how it is viewed by
the prophets), and therefore it is treated just like the past. So now we
have a generalisation for the form not only in narratives but in any genre
- it is an R-building form. If instead, we Assume that it is past tense we
will be able to take care of it only within the narrative.
My analysis will take care of the examples you provide, without resorting
to tense.  Let's consider your example Gen 5:1 <WAYYIQRA' 'elohim la'or yom
-- welaHo$el QARA' layla> I agree with your translation: *God called the
light Day -- WHILE the darkness He called Night* I also agree with your
comment: Had the writer used twice *wayyiqra'* the effect would have been
different: THEN God called the light Day, THEN He called the darkness
Noght.   This is a good illustration of what I am trying to argue. The
first clause in this example builds a new R-time (assuming that you agree
that God named the light only AFTER He created it). The second clause does
not build a new R-time, but uses the one introduced by the first clause.
Therefore it does not move the time forward, and it is interpreted, as you
suggested, as related to the naming of the day.

	Direct Speech (DS). You like to distinguish between the use of the
forms in the narrative and their use in DS. As you correctly pointed out
and illustrated, the first clause opening a DS would never be a <wayyiqtol>
one. The observation seems to be valid, however I am not sure about the
explanation you provide for it.  If the reason for the appearance of
<qatal> in the opening clause of DS is,indeed, because DS is a different
genre than the narrative, why do we have this form only (ignoring
counterexamples) in the opoening of the DS?  In pp. 181-2 I show that if
the speaker is telling a story s/he would use <wayyiqtol> for the
time-line, except for the first clause. A good example is 2Sam 1:6-11,
where a big chank of narrative is given by the Amalekite. All the clauses
of the Amalekite reporting what happened on Mount Gilboa are in
<wayyiqtol>, except for the first one which is in <qatal> (preceded by
Infinitive Absolute).  I consider DS planted in a narrative to be a kind of
subnarrative, and explain the use of <qatal> at the beginning as marking
the transition from the main to the sub-narrative.

 	I hope I addressed all your comments.


>On  23/12/99 (<wayyiqtol> again) Galia Hatav wrote:
>	< ... >
>> I think Dave got acurate intuition, that <wayyiqtol> is independent, as
>>opposed to <qatal>. However, I think that this independence is not
>>syntactic (see the first clause in Gen 1:1 and clauses in direct speech).
>>Dave, I thought you "bought" the idea that this independence has to do with
>>Reference-Time-Building, where <wayyiqtol> builds its own R-time but
>><qatal> does not. Let us call <wayyiqtol> and <wqatal> R-builders, as
>>opposed to <qatal> and <yiqtol> (and <qotel>, too). This will get rid of
>>the notion of "sequentiality," which I consider to be a derived property
>>from R-building.
>	< ... >
>Dear Galia Hatav,
>How would you explain the fact that in the examples below the same
>event is expressed with wayyiqtol in one case, and with first-place
>qatal or second-place x-qatal in the other?
>- 2 Sam 12:26	wayyillaHem yô'ab berabbat benê `amôn -- wayyilkod
>'et-`îr hammelukâ
>  versus 12:27  (Joab sent messengers to David and said )
>	        nilHamtî berabbâ -- gam-lakadtî 'et-`îr hammayim.
>- Gen 40:2      wayyiqtzop par`oh `al $enê sarisayw ...
>  versus 41:10  (The chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh)
>	        par`oh qatsap `al-`abadayw ...
>	In my _Syntax_ pages 41-43 I have listed about 20 such cases,
>and the list is far for being complete.
>	From these examples I deduced that verbforms are used
>differently in historical narrative and in direct speech. In
>historical narrative wayyiqtol is used while in direct speech qatal
>or x-qatal (with no visible difference in this particular case).
>Specifically, wayyiqtol is used to narrate historically (*erzählen*
>in German) while (x-) qatal is used to *report* an event orally
>(*berichten* in German). This distinction is clearcut in the examples
>above because the same verbal roots are used for the same event,
>which is first narrated by the historian, then reported in direct
>	I further deduced that wayyiqtol is at home in historical
>narrative while qatal is at home in direct speech with a past
>reference. They are at home in their respective genres because in
>them they indicate the mainline of communication.
>	This is in line with the fact that no direct speech is found
>to begin with wayyiqtol; e.g. Deut 1:6 and 5:2 are both the beginning
>of an oral speech related to the past and start with x-qatal--not
>with wayyiqtol. This x-qatal starts the mainline of an oral narrative
>exactly as wayyiqtol starts the mainline of an historica narrative.
>	On the other hand, in historical narrative wayyiqtol and
>x-qatal play different functions. The events they describe do not
>stand on the same line, otherwise the author would have used
>wayyiqtol instead of shifting to x-qatal. Particularly telling are
>case where the same verbform is used as, e.g., in Gen 1:5; 1:10;
>1:27. Consult Joüon-Muraoka #118 d-g, where different cases are
>examined where *biblical writers deliberately avoid wayyiqtol and
>replace it with w- ... qatal.*
>	Gen 1:5 *WAYYIQRA' 'elohîm la'ôr yôm -- welaHo$ek QARA'
>laylâ* can be rendered: *God called the light Day -- WHILE the
>darkness He called Night.* The tense shift from wayyiqtol to x-qatal
>intends to convey the naming of the night as related, or coincidental
>to the naming of the day, rather than as parallel, or sequential to
>it. Had the writer used twice *wayyiqra'* the effect would be
>different: THEN God called the light Day, THEN he called the darkness
>	It seems evident that wayyiqtol is the past tense in
>historical narrative--indeed the only past tense expressing mainline.
>Wayyiqtol has a fix past reference time in historical narrative.
>Despite the unending discussions on the matter, we can avoid
>confusion and make progressively more light on the BH verb system by
>studying prose apart from poetry and further by distinguishing
>historical narrative from direct speech.
>	In my view, our task is to carefully collect every piece of
>evidence and try to put everything together in a coherent way. It is
>reasonable that we start from clear, simple cases from prose texts
>until we get a fairly complete picture of the situation; afterwards
>we shall be able to address more difficult cases and poetry.
>	Thus, the fundamental function of wayyiqtol is to express
>mainline in historical narrative; it is the narrative past tense.
>Sequentiality is also a major function of it; however explaining
>wayyiqtols ('In fact he did') and conclusive wayyiqtols ('And thus he
>did'), which do not advance sequentiality, are also well attested.
>This fact presents no problem for the theory outlined above. In fact
>sequentiality, explaining and conclusive functions, etc., are
>semantic categories. They are suggested by the context rather than by
>the grammatical form wayyiqtol; or maybe, they are context-bound
>specifications of the basic syntactic function, which is being the
>narrative past tense.  The latter, on the contrary, is tied to the
>grammatical form.
>Peace and all good.
>Alviero Niccacci
>Studium Biblicum Franciscanum      Tel. +972 - 2 - 6282 936
>POB 19424 - 91193 - Jerusalem      Fax  +972 - 2 - 6264 519
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